Monday, March 12, 2012

Why I don't care for Elmo.

It all started on Wednesday when one of our playschool children vomited right before rest time...with a nasty stomach bug going around nearly every family in our area, I wasn't surprised.
The  other children were so interested in their play, they had no idea it had even happened. Yes, I came through with towels, disinfectant, and everything...and still, no one batted an eyelash.
The next morning at 3:00 AM, W began what would be a 2 hour stretch of vomiting and misery. He finally fell  back to sleep around 6:00 as I ran downstairs to send out a text message proclaiming playschool officially and most definitely cancelled for the day. He woke a bit later in surprisingly good spirits.
Jay and I were ridiculously tired and we both started to feel queasy....
Yes, it had hit us, too.
Luckily, W was still sleeping by 8:00 when I rolled out of bed again to check my messages. I turned on the local news and dropped to the couch, wondering how in the world I was going to get through the next 24 hours. The news ended and Sesame Street followed. Somewhat intrigued, I started watching, for the first time in nearly 25 years.
Did you watch Sesame Street as a child? What do you remember?
I recall Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie and a few catchy counting songs....and a sort-of scary skit with Count Von Count. Before Elmo, it was THE Street. A regular city street with trash around the cans, ordinary looking people and a few muppets singing songs.
I got about 5 minutes into the show before I just had to turn it off.
This video was the clincher for me:

Oh man. God help me if I ever have to watch this again. I'm not trying to be dramatic, but did this leave anyone else here with a bit of a headache?
There is so much going on in this short video. Before you can even grasp what has just popped up on the screen (like a jack-o-lantern, a beach scene, etc.) it's gone and already something else. Things really start to go ballistic around 0:45 and I feel motion sickness kicking in. How is this healthy for a particularly young viewer trying to take the world in and make sense of it?
I'm also kind of bothered by the singing....I'm not sure what the voice effect is, but it sounds more like a computer or synthesizer than a voice.
Elmo's speech is broken and overly child-like....maybe "cute" by someone's standards, but not worthy of imitation in any way.
What irks me most is the infiltration of marketing involved with the character. (a great site to learn more about the marketing tactics used by manufacturers and other information here)  I am glad that we will be bypassing all of the toys, games, clothing, snackfoods, etc. by choosing to be media-free for as long as possible. The hype surrounding the toys is outrageous!

I "get" that Elmo is one of today's most beloved characters....I guess I just don't understand why.
Is it because he is so wide eyed and innocent?
Because he giggles a lot?
Because he seems like...a kid?
I don't know enough about the show to answer any of these questions.
I don't think I'll be interested in finding out, either.
My mom doesn't think there's anything wrong with Sesame Street---but I think she's recalling the show 25 years ago.

Does anyone else remember this??
I think it's pretty clever; the use of the everyday objects, the simplicity, the "facial expressions"..
Do you think this hold hold the attention of children today?
If not, what has changed?
Interested to hear your thoughts...


  1. Wow! I haven't watched Sesame Street since 1979 and that was quite the shock. I visited a family daycare yesterday where they show Sesame Street for 20 minutes every day while the daycare provider prepares lunch. I had already said we were a non-TV household and so she raised this so I would be aware that there was some TV (she referred to it as "educational"). I largely dismissed it. I had already decided that I wouldn't send my daughter to that particular daycare so it didn't really matter, but I honestly didn't think Sesame Street could be as bad as that clip. Something has gone terribly wrong in 33 years!

    I hope you, W and Jay feel better soon!

  2. I try to stick to the classic stuff on youtube or the sesame st website when we do watch. there's some great 60's & 70's stuff online with kids gardening, good old Jim Henson, and teeny little super guy.

  3. Wow! That Elmo clip was appalling. Hope every is feeling better in your house!

  4. Just recently my parents wanted to get my children's hair cut and desperately want to take them to a children's salon. I was astonished that at every chair had a tv and it was blasting all sorts of loud characters. They asked what my children wanted to watch and they had no idea. At once the stylist started rambling off shows and the my girls were over whelmed. Before I could say anything they turned on a show and stuck a lollipop in there mouth. Lets just say the will never be going there again. I despise tv and what it does to my children's behavior. I personally believe that tv then and now has never held children's true attention. It is ment to tune out and that is not what I want for my children or future leaders of the world.

  5. I love the compare and contrast. It's true it's changed so much. I can't stand it and most other kid shows on today because of the continuous high pitched scream voices. I think producers of these shows think they need to be faster and louder than all the others and more exciting then a video game! We have a couple favs tho that are around today, like Kipper. It's so slow moving and quiet, the plot moves along fluidly & childlike. Both my boys love it.

    So sorry to hear you've not felt well. Hope you all are better now.


  6. They had the very frantic Elmo's World spin-off on a big screen in the pediatrician's office waiting room the last time we went. (!?!) I must admit I haven't gone back since! I agree - it's a very different Sesame Street, and a different media world, today. Thanks for sharing the old scool Sesame - that sure takes me back :)

    ~ Hope you are all feeling better ~

  7. Yes, exactly! Couldn't have said it better myself.

  8. i haven't watched Sesame street in 35 years ... my children have been raised media free --largely due to how much it has changed. Remember when the "street" was about the people and their own children and families??? Remember when the children on that show were shown outdoors ..and they all followed Big Bird down the path and through the park??? I respect their passion for quality childcare and programming etc... but where do we draw the line on screen time?? This generation has more screen time than any other in the history of man kind .... man kind !!! They also spend more time sitting and being indoors than any other generation !!! That to me alarming ... we need to stop packaging and branding everything with a screen as "early education" --to be truly "educated" we need to use all the senses -- a child learns with their whole being and body ... early education can come in many forms it is a lady bug, any other insect, a log, a story told to a child, their own reflection, a puddle , bubbles .... etc.. not screen time .. they have a life time to make screening choices... the wonder of their early years can be gone so quickly ..... that is why i love waldorf education so much ....i have 2 teenagers now -- neither of them feel that they have missed anything -- screen wise --- in fact they are broad enough thinkers to see all he perspectives of programming ..... it is only ONE way they get information ...sorry -- i 'll get down from my soap box.... now lol .. this topic has been a bit of a passion of mine for years ... thanks for sharing your thoughts. hugs

  9. Thank you, Rebecca's for writing this. So many people think Sesame Street is the same as when we were kids. The show today barely resembles the one we knew. Elmo dominates the second half of the hour with his very own show within a show. The most disgusting part of it is when Elmo wants to "learn more" about something, he finds the information on a tv channel or the Internet. Books aren't even mentioned on a show that was supposedly created to promote letter and number recognition for preschoolers.

    Our son does watch tv. He is the rare child who doesn't like Elmo or.Sesame Street. He does like Mr. Rogers and Caillou. These slow moving shows are refreshing in their simplicity. He does love The Fresh Beat Band too. TFBB is a horrid show about a band that sings catchy annoying songs. It stars.adults but is geared to little kids. My.son adores them. Ugh. Happily, we just subscribed to Netflix which will give us some extra control.

  10. Auto-tune is being used a lot in popular music right now, which is what you're hearing in Elmo's voice. To me the very saddest part of this is that the song and video are a (relatively) safe alternative for what many children may hear and see from their parents and older siblings.

    I think the baby talk and cute face are appealing to children....they can tell he is a puppet and "real". (However, at some parts of the video Elmo was clearly a computer-generated cartoon). He is also colorful and a bit loud, which reminds me in some ways of the talking, blinking electronic toys that will still "call" to children after they've lost interest. But still, I think the idea of Elmo, a child puppet, is not a bad concept on the program. He's just been over-commercialized.

    The old video would hold the attention of my children, who don't watch cartoons and rarely see anything on the screen (sometimes a nature video, but those have to be screened carefully). But for a child who is used to viewing things that are fast-paced, loud, gaudy...then no, it would probably seem very 'beneath' them.

    I think I'm rambling here....thank you for bringing up this interesting topic. I've been visiting CCFC since before my very first was born! And we had the 2-6hour vomit-bug here as well. Yuck.....


  11. Even the Sesame Street of 20 years ago (when my oldest was little) was wonderful. Full of sweet curiosity and charming songs. And, of course, I was the first generation to grow up watching Sesame Street... I think that if Jim Henson was still alive things would be much better. He had a truly childlike heart.

    Elmo is horrible. Especially the strange "habit" of referring to himself in the third person. "Aimee finds that creepy!" I also never "baby talked" with my children. So the idea of entire generations being spoken to as if they are blathering idiots is disgusting.

    I prefer the "simple" and natural things. Natural materials, basic shapes, room to use the imagination and LOTS of fresh air!

    Hope you are feeling better soon! It's a nasty cold and flu season...

  12. I'm relieved that there are people who feel the same as I do about unplugging my children. The things that are becoming normal to some children because of what is seen on tv disturbs me at times. That video gave me a headache. I watch how emotional some of my friends children get when the tv or the video games go off. The children seem to almost have withdrawls and get cranky and emotional. I remember watching this happen and feeling so bad for them.

  13. Well this is a topic I will like to participate but don't have the answers.
    I havent watched elmo when I was a child (my parents didnt believe in media-free and now that I have my daughter We limitate tv as much as we can, she found out ho was elmo when her dad showed her this toy at the store (which we never bought, bu the way). So I don't know too much about this character.
    But thank you for the input.

  14. Oh I am so with you! I grew up on Sesame Street as well, many of us did, but I remember reading or hearing about a study on how the pace of the show has changed significantly over the years, that is why we don't watch it here, to frenetic for us.

    Now Mister Rogers, he is the real deal. Always, always talks with respect and regard for the kids. And as others tried to make him change to "keep up" with media he always insisted on keeping the show slow paced and compassionate.

    Hope all of you feel better soon!

  15. Oh, now I remember Operatic Orange! The eyelashes! I just adore stop-motion animation.

    I think kids (well, most kids) would still love stuff like this. The Elmo video was a bit much, I agree - way too much going on, and he almost seemed like a mini rapper - like that Vocoder voice that so many rappers/R&B artists use these days.

    Don't get me wrong, I love rap and R&B - but I wonder if Elmo is trying to appeal to the parents watching, instead of the kids. I mean, that's often the case with kids' no surprise there. Just disappointment from Sesame Street!

    Simple is best...isn't it???

  16. Oh my goodness, you are so right! I totally remember the orange...even from just the picture. I remembered when I watched the video that his rubberband lips made me nervous as a kid...not sure why. Yet, how simple it was back then, yet thoroughly entertaining. The Elmo image.....what in the world?! I can barely follow it....let alone an innocent, sweet child. Thanks for talking about this!!!!

  17. Finally! Someone brave enough to say that Elmo just plain stinks. ;)

  18. I just found your blog and I could not watch the whole clip far to annoying. I find children's TV insulting, most of it is little more than bathroom humour. When one of my little guys was 4 he developed a malignant brain tumor when he woke from surgery he could not walk and lost motor control down the right-side of his body etc. simple tasks like eating, coloring, building with blocks etc were difficult if not impossible there was very little he could do he was stuck in a hospital bed and I was shocked by children's programming. I can remember watching horse racing to pass the time he would pick a color to cheer for and we'd watch the race, not something I'd normally encourage someone to do but it passed the time and it was much better than the shows that are out there. So glad that he is able to play again.

  19. I agree completely. People wonder why children have limited attention. Take a look at what they are watching (since most children do watch). I watched SS as a kid, and it was different. I have shown my children clips from old shows. I read that the show changed, because research showed children learning better when information was in smaller segments. I think it is just crazy.


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